PHILADELPHIA – Officially, the game was played in Philadelphia but for the Flyers it felt like Desperation City.
Needing to take two points from Boston without allowing the Bruins any, the Flyers fought the visitors to a standoff through two periods on Saturday.
Then, in a final 20 minutes where the Flyers usually collapse against the gang from Massachusetts, a funny thing happened.
Sean Couturier’s goal at 6:59 pushed the Flyers into the lead and they went on to take a badly needed 3-2 win at the Wells Fargo Center.
Faced with the threat of falling even farther behind their NHL East Division rivals, the Flyers instead closed to within four points with Boston holding two games in hand.
This was the first time all season the Flyers beat the Bruins in regulation time (and the second overall all season), which is exactly what they needed to do.
Credit the inspired play of Travis Konecny and the goaltending of Brian Elliott for much of the outcome.
Konecny, who’s been playing his best hockey since the first week of the season, scored one goal, set up another by Shayne Gostisbehere and created havoc all over the ice.
When he plays that firebrand style of hockey, the Flyers are tough to beat.
Elliott indicated Konecny’s play sort of typified the Flyers’ character-check third period.
Prior to this game, the Bruins had outscored the Flyers in the third period by a 14-7 margin this season. All that changed Saturday.
“I thought we were good on faceoffs, quick on our toes to get to spots and really not letting them set up,’’ Elliott said in a post-game media Zoom call. “Especially in the last minutes of the game there.
“That’s what you like to see, fighting through picks, those are the things you need to do in the D-zone. I thought we did a really good job of that from my perspective.’’
As for Konecny, he pretty much does for the Flyers what Brad Marchand does for the Bruins – namely, skate his butt off, talk trash and get his bench fired up.
“I think he’s just getting in the dirty areas right now,’’ Elliott said. “I can see him grinding away on pucks along the boards, winning battles, that quickness that he’s known for, that feistiness.
“So I think we’re seeing that more and more. That’s his game, getting in there, getting dirty. Probably making the other team mad at him a little bit. That’s when you know he’s on his game.’’
Konecny scored his crucial goal at 11:51 of the first period after the Bruins used a Shayne Gostisbehere turnover to get a goal from Patrice Bergeron at 5:38. Konecny scored when goalie Jeremy Swayman left a fat rebound off a Robert Hagg shot.
Gostisbehere made up for his gaffe when he deflected Konecny’s power-play shot at 17:46 of the first. Boston tied it at 11:45 of the second on a goal by Jake DeBrusk.
That set the stage for the winning goal. James van Riemsdyk relayed a pass to Joel Farabee, who looked like he was going to shoot but instead passed to Couturier for an open shot.
Then the Flyers’ defense took over, with Konecny leading the charge.
“We knew they’re a dangerous team,’’ he said. “When it comes down to the game’s tied, they’re going to have their top guys out there and you know what they’re capable of doing.
“We had some big penalty kills, too (including two in the third period). We blocked shots, did all the things you expect out of your team.’’
Added coach Alain Vigneault of Konecny: “When he’s moving his feet and he’s going to those tough areas, he’s such an effective player.’’
>Provorov hangs in there
Defenseman Ivan Provorov had a hard shot drill him right in the foot just 18 seconds into the match. He immediately went to the ice in extreme pain. A moment later, he limped to the bench but, to no one’s surprise, he didn’t even miss a shift.
No wonder he’s played in 356 straight games and has never missed a game in his career.
“Everytime I go out there I compete,’’ Provorov said. “I do whatever it takes to help the team win. It’s part of hockey. You have to find it in you to get up and keep playing, keep battling. It is an important game and there was no way I was leaving.”
That said, it was a pretty scary moment for the Flyers’ bench.
>Penalty kill comes through
Boston came into the game having scored 10 times in 19 tries on the power play against the Flyers but in this game the Flyers blanked the Bruins on four tries.
“There’s no doubt their power play has been a big weapon against us this year,’’ Vigneault said. “Those two kills in the third (were critical). We got some saves, the guys did a real good job, especially on that last one when you know they’re going to be going on all cylinders.’’
>Elliott on top of his game
Elliott was the second star of the game and Vigneault said his veteran netminder always seems to come through in the big moments.
“He’s been making big saves at the big times,’’ Vigneault said. “He’s been a real force for us in goal.’’
Carter Hart is scheduled to start Sunday afternoon’s game against Buffalo in Philadelphia.
This was Konecny’s seventh multi-point game this year and second in the last week. . .Van Riemsdyk had two assists for his 10th multi-point game of the year and fourth against Boston. He finished the season series with four goals and six assists for 10 points, marking the fourth time in his career that he’s averaged better than a point per game in a season series vs. Boston. . .Couturier scored his 28th career game-winning goal. It moves him into sole possession of 17th place on the Flyers’ alltime list, breaking a tie he’d had with Brayden Schenn, Dave Poulin and Gary Dornhoefer.